- Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham released a list of 57 priests with claims of child sexual abuse against them.
- However, District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said there were “dozens” of names on the list that he could not prosecute, due to the fact that many are deceased and the New York state statute of limitations.
- Fitzpatrick reportedly can only conduct an investigation to ensure a priest does not pose a danger to children, not pursue the cases in a criminal court.
Syracuse Bishop Robert Cunningham made the decision to release the names before his retirement in the first case of the diocese releasing such a list.
The list includes names of 38 deceased priests. There are 19 listed that are still alive, all of whom were removed from ministry, the diocese said.
Cunningham previously refused to release the list of names in accordance with the diocese’s previous tradition of withholding the names from public view.
“Upon serious reflection and prayer, I have concluded that this practice has become a roadblock to moving our local Church forward,” Cunningham wrote to parishioners, according to Syracuse.com. “Additionally, I believe it is not fair to my successor whomever he is or whenever he comes, to leave him with this decision.”
No active priests in the diocese have public, active accusations of child sexual abuse against them, and the office of Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick is reviewing the allegations against living priests.
However, Fitzpatrick reportedly can only conduct an investigation to ensure a priest does not pose a danger to children, not pursue the cases in a criminal court.
Thirty-two of the priests on the list were removed as part of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, an established policy for bishops on handling child abuse cases. Five were removed before the charter and 20 were accused after their deaths.
However, Fitzpatrick deemed the move impotent ahead of its release, citing the several deceased priests and New York state statute of limitations as preventing prosecution for “dozens” of named priests for allegations dating back to the 1950s.
The list is the same that the diocese released earlier this year to the New York attorney general’s office.
Despite the diocese’s cooperation, there is evidence that some allegations were kept from law enforcement and signals that the diocese is in dire need of policy reform in dealing with such cases, Fitzpatrick told Syracuse.com.
“I don’t think there’s any question that historically the Syracuse diocese, along with perhaps every other diocese in America and maybe the world, was derelict in eradicating this and nipping it in the bud,” Fitzpatrick said.
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